Friday, November 2, 2012

#117 Memento Mori

We never know when tragedy might strike.  Often times we see events on television, read about them in the paper and online, or hear them on the radio and think tragic events will never come knocking on our door.  Then when we come face to face with a bad situation we are quickly reminded of just how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away.  There's even a Latin phrase, memento mori, that means "remember your mortality" that seeks to bring attention to the fragility of life.

I had that reminder this past week as I had the privilege of ministering to a medical office that performs kidney dialysis for their patients.  They came to work thinking that particular Wednesday would be like any other they had experienced.  But routine quickly turned to horrific when one of the workers stepped outside the front door to discover that the overnight security guard had been gunned down in an apparent robbery attempt.  Even though the workers began to immediately provide medical treatment the young man did not survive his injuries and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Two of my church family members who work at the center contacted me soon after the attack and asked if I would be willing to go and provide spiritual support for the workers of the facility; it was my honor to be able to respond and lift up Christ in that tragic situation.

I felt so blessed that everyone made me feel welcome and many of the workers came by and spoke to me about how they were processing the event.  I was even able to pray with them and call them back the the Savior during that dark hour.  They were so thankful to have someone there and I was thankful to be with them in their time of need.

While this horrible event is not uncommon around the Metro Detroit area, it does not make the loss any less sad or important.  There is now a family without a son, a brother, a cousin, or a friend.  The loss was compounded by the fact that the young man was such a well-liked and lovable guy who did not even live in the area.  Sad indeed.

As I thought about the event myself after leaving the facility I was reminded of just how much we need Jesus every moment of every day.  Yes, we should worship the Lord each Sabbath and be faithful in our church attendance for sake of worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth, but living for Christ each moment of every day is critical in making sure that we do not take life for granted at any time.  Like this young man, Jesus too was killed without cause.  He was illegally tried and then condemned by those who should have heralded His ministry.  He was openly mocked, beaten, and eventually crucified upon what some have called the cruelest device of men: the cross.

When I speak to families after a loss I always encourage them to take something away from the death of their loved one other than just the loss its self.  In my opinion there is no better way to honor our loved ones than to live our lives to the glory of God so that we may see them again when Christ comes to take us all home to be with Him.

Yes, we are mortal and this mortal life can be taken away in the blink of an eye, but if we live to serve the God of heaven then we have more than death to look forward to; we have an eternity with Jesus and the redeemed.  But in order to receive eternal life we must surrender to Christ and allow Him to be both our Savior and Lord.  It is my prayer that each of us will make the decision every day to follow Jesus and live for Him both now and into eternity.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Today, we praise You for giving us the gift of life on this earth and the promise of eternal life through Jesus our Lord.  Please forgive us for the times that we take You and the precious gift of salvation for granted.  Please help us to life each day in honor of You and teach us to remain faithful that You might save us at last when Christ comes to take us home.  We praise You and ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen!

Friday, October 26, 2012

#116 Doppelgangers

Have you ever been walking through a store or driving down the road and think you see someone you know headed your way?  You recognize certain physical traits or mannerisms that tell you that the person you see coming is your friend, relative or acquaintance.  Maybe you prepare to wave or say hello and perhaps even go out of your way to make sure that they notice you too only to realize as they draw nearer and nearer that the one coming at you is not who you thought it was.

It can be so embarrassing to have this happen.  I have had people look at me like I am crazy and I've even had one or two look slightly weirded-out.  At the moment you realize your mistake you just want to crawl in a hole or maybe you even say, "Sorry, I thought you were so-in-so."  There is hardly a way to recover that does not leave you feeling like you wish you were somewhere else far, far away.

These situations are exacerbated when the person whom we mistake for our friend or family member bears an uncanny resemblance to our loved one.  There have even been times that the person could pass for a twin to my friend or loved one.  Some have even said that we all have a twin somewhere in the world.  When someone bears near-resemblance to us they are referred to as our doppelganger or look-alike.  These embarrassing moments have taught me to wait until someone gets close enough to clearly identify.  It saves a lot of awkwardness on both sides of the experience.

While I have no idea whether or not doppelgangers actually exist or if genetics just gets close occasionally, I do know that we are called to mirror and "look" like Someone.  Over and over again in the New Testament we are called to be like Jesus.  No, not in physical appearance but in character and deeds.  Paul reminds us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).  In other words since Jesus has called us we ought to walk--live out our lives--in such a way as to honor Jesus in all we do and say.  Peter encourages us to lay aside sinful things and drink the pure milk of the word so we can grow and become like Christ (1 Peter 2:1, 2).  Over and over we are called to be like Christ.  Yes, I assert today that Jesus wants us to be His doppelgangers.  He wants us to be like Him: loving, kind, patient, willing to serve, ready to speak of the Father's love for us, and on and on.

The problem comes when we profess Jesus with the mouth and deny Him by how we live.  Anyone can say, "I'm a Christian."  But only one with a living connection to the God of heaven can actually live each day letting Christ have control of the life.  And it really comes down to only two choices.  We are either going to look like Christ or Satan in how we live out our lives.  And while I struggle each day trying to let Jesus help me overcome myself, I truly want to be and "look" like Jesus.  How about you?  Are you more concerned about mirroring the world or do you too want to look and be like Jesus?

Dear Father in Heaven,
Today we thank You for your goodness, mercy, love, and grace.  But we especially thank You for Jesus and the salvation that comes to us so freely from Your gracious hand.  Please draw close to us just now and give us the power to overcome ourselves.  May we not be mistaken for the world, but may the world see Jesus in  us everyday.  For we pray now in Christ's holy name, Amen!

Friday, August 24, 2012

#115 Ninja Splinters

Life is filled with pains; some minor, some major, and some just irritating.  Having survived some 38 years now I have had a few pains along the way.  One type of pain that can be tricky to deal with is a splinter.  Some call it a sliver but I grew up hearing the word splinter and will most likely stay with it. When I think of a sliver I have visions of pie pieces that have been cut too small.  They reach a point where they cease to be pieces of pie and simply become slivers.  Slivers that do little more than make you want more pie because you really wanted a piece all along.  But I digress.  Pie is not my point...back to splinters.

In the various jobs and projects I have worked on over the course of my life I have had wood and metal splinters.  There's nothing like having a piece of lumber slide through your hands only to come to an abrupt stop because a splinter of wood embedded in your flesh.  Or if you have ever been drilling through a piece of metal you've seen the spiral-shaped metal that is peeled out of the hole.  Sometimes when you're drilling or cutting metal the shavings are really, really small and look more like dust than tiny pieces of metal.

In my questionably humble opinion, the small splinters are the worst.  I would much rather--if I have to get a splinter--have a larger piece of wood or metal that I can easily see, easily remove, and easily discard.  But there have been times that I really did not notice I even had a splinter until my clothing catches it just the right way or unless I happen to place pressure on that portion of my hand in some way.  There you are going about your business and then "Ouch!"  You have a brief stabbing pain run through your body.  Upon further inspection you cannot even see what happened.  Sometimes it has taken me days to actually dig around with a needle or pin to find the little rascal.  I always feel a special sense of satisfaction and relief once those pesky little ninja splinters are gone from my body.

In a similar way some of our relationships resemble splinters.  Yes, some people sort of jab or pierce us in a hurtful way.  Most times it's rather obvious to me when someone doesn't like me or the way that I do something.  Other times we cannot really tell that we are being pierced by someone because they are subtle about their dislike of us.  Maybe they smile to our face then run us down to others.  And many times we are not even aware that we are being "poked" until an event causes a "snag".  Then we suddenly realize that all is not well.  We are then faced with the realization that something is sticking us and perhaps we've been sticking someone else unawares.  Yes, some of our relationships are like the ninja splinters.

But far more important than removing a foreign object from our finger is removing the foreign objects from our character and from our relationships.  Let me say this, "Some relationships will never be mended."  Why?  Simply because not everyone wants to make amends.  Some people are so stubborn, arrogant, and prideful that they refuse to budge.  They do this while expecting everyone else to bend and change around for them.

As Christians we have an obligation to try to make things right with people.  Jesus often urged His followers to work through things.  He urged us to forgive and to seek forgiveness.  Ultimately, Jesus  gave us all the counsel and teaching that we need to be prepared to live with Him forever in heaven and in the new earth.  The big question is, "Will you take the time to dig out the splinters or just let them stay while infection sets in?"  We all know that infection breeds death and Christ has not come to destroy us but rather to give us eternal life.  The choice is yours, which will you choose?

Dear Father God,
Today, I thank You for splinters.  Not because I like getting them but because it reminds me that it's better to dig out the splinter and endure a little pain there instead of living with it and suffering infection and death.  Please teach us to lean on You, Lord, in all that we do.  May we always know that we can trust You to help us through each struggle and through each difficult relationship.  Give us the courage to dig out the splinters of our relationships and character that we might be prepared for eternity with You and that You might be glorified through all that we do.  We pray now in Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

#114 Self Checkout

Are there things in this world that irritate you?  Are there things that just get right under your skin?  Of course there are.  We all have things that we either have a distaste for or that rub us the wrong way or that really irritate us.  Sometimes we call these things our "pet peeves".

In my questionably humble opinion self checkouts are the bane of the modern retail world.  Yes, yes I know that lots of people use them and think that they are the greatest thing since buttons on a shirt, but I do not and will not use self checkouts.  Why you ask?  It's actually very simple.

Every item that is sold in a given retail establishment is priced with the cost of the labor required to stock the items on the shelf and to ring out the items when they are ready to be purchased.  In other words the price you are paying for every item has calculated into it the cost of paying the people who work there to put it out for sale and to assist you in buying it.  So when you and I ring out the items ourselves we are throwing away money.  Every time you wave an item across the scanner, make your payment, and bag your items you throw away money because the store schedules less workers because you are doing the work they used to hire people for.

Some retail locations take it even further by attempting to force you to use the self checkouts because they realize how much money you save them by doing the work yourself.  They "force" the use of these lanes by placing them closest to the store exits.  The staffed checkout lanes are all the way to the center of the 50 checkout lanes.  The store is banking on the idea that people will be too lazy to walk all the way to the center registers where paid cashiers are working.

Now my wife would disagree with me on this topic for sure.  She loves the convenience of not waiting for long lines of people to flow through the manned stations.  She likes letting the kids scan the items and bag them.  But I am thankful that she patiently waits with me in line when we are together.  I would have much less aversion to this new way of doing business if the stores gave us a small discount for doing their work or if they at least gave us special coupons to save money on our next visit.  So until they start doing that you will find me in line letting the store earn its overhead.

"Take a deep breathe, relax, and now make a point."  The reason I bring this up today is that it's really silly how many things we let bother us.  Yes, I feel that it is a principled issue and not simply being too lazy to check out my own items, but is it really worth getting worked up over?  How many times do we irritate the Lord because of our foolishness?  I'm actually afraid to know the answer to that.  No doubt there are countless times that our foolishness causes heartache to the Lord and yet He lovingly and patiently keeps working with us.

If God is patient and long suffering with us how much should we also be toward one another?  It's almost as if we feel entitled to being able to get upset over foolish things when really we too are called to be like our Lord.  When Paul wrote the epistle to the church in Galatia he told them how to know if they were connected to God.  He wrote that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22, 23).

I have to admit there are too many times that I have not been long suffering with people.  There are too many times that I have not been kind, gentle, good or self-controlled.  But today I want to have a fresh connection with the Spirit of God that I might bear fruit worthy of His presence don't you?

Dear Father God,
I thank You for bearing with us in our foolishness.  I thank You for not giving up on us.  Please forgive us where we have failed You today.  Please forgive us for all the silly things we do and for all the grievous sins too.  Today we long to be close to You with a clean heart.  As You grant us forgive us please also fill us with Your Spirit that we might bear fruit worthy of our God.  We love You and pray now in the precious name of Jesus, Amen!

Friday, August 3, 2012

#113 Blindsight

We have all heard of either having hindsight or foresight right?  Hindsight is being able to look back on events and see where better decisions could have been made or how things went right or wrong.  Men and women have also been blessed by the Lord to have foresight sometimes.  God has often revealed what would happen in the future.  Foresight can also be interpreted to mean that someone has the ability to discern how events will unfold.

While I am familiar with both hindsight and foresight I must admit I had never heard of blindsight.  That is until I read an article about a man who progressively lost his eyesight due to a series of strokes.  He lost vision in one eye with the first stroke and the other quickly followed suit shortly thereafter.

But unlike many people who lose their sight this man was not completely blind.  No, he could not see things but yet he could see.  Let me explain.  You see the strokes damaged the visual cortex of his brain where images are processed.  The oddly rare thing about this man's condition is that only his visual cortex was damaged.  Meaning that his eyes still worked just fine.  His eyes still saw things just as they always had.  Researchers were amazed by this man because even though he was clinically blind he could still tell if someone was angry, sad, happy, or otherwise.  He could still navigate around objects.  It was quite amazing to me to see how resilient the human body is.

As I read the story about this amazing man I could not help but wonder just how limited our bodies are now because of sin.  In Genesis 1:26 we read that God decided to make man in His image.  But we also know, thanks to the Biblical record, that sin has had a very harmful effect on that original image.  This is most notable perhaps in the shorter lifespans that we have now compared to the first several generations after creation.

How much more are our bodies capable of?  How much more would God have us do that is more in harmony with the image of God?  The only way to find out is to make sure we have a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Not only are we promised that He will make us a new creation as it relates to our character (2 Cor. 5:17), but He will give us a new, glorified body that is not tainted with sin (2 Cor 5:2, 1 Cor 15:51-53). Each time I get up with a sore back or have a headache I long for that new body.  When I see children with birth defects or anyone with a severe handicap my heart longs to see them made whole too.

The part that makes me the happiest I suppose is that the promise of a new, untainted character and of a new, glorified body is freely available to all who will accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.  It is my prayer that we all will have a desire to be connected to the Savior.  Why not let today be the day that you start living for Him more fully and completely?

Dear Father God,
Thank You for making us with such amazingly wonderful bodies.  Thank You that each one of us is a beautiful miracle.  Please keep us faithful to You until the day that You restore us to the image You first desired for us.  Until then may we live to glorify You in all that we do.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

#112 Deleterious Environment

Keeping things clean and neat can mean the difference between life and death.  Take a surgical suite for example.  Unless you want to invite germs and bacteria into someone you must make certain that the room and all the surgical instruments are sterile and ready to use inside the human body.

On a lighter note, I have friends who repair and paint cars.  The area where they actually paint the car is a sealed room referred to as the spray or paint booth.  The last thing you want floating around in the air is all sorts of dust, pollen, or bugs.  Can you imagine how awful your car's paint job would look if there in the clear coat were bugs and dirt preserved in the finish?  Yuck!  

I think you get the idea.  There are many instances where we want the environment to be free of deleterious or contaminating substances or particulates.  Yet while we take so much care to make sure things like paint are free of contaminants I wonder if we take enough care to make sure the things that our families ingest by way of entertainment are free of deleterious or corrupting influences.

Satan is a lot of things: a liar, deceptive, and the enemy of God and all who profess to follow Him.  But one thing he is not: stupid.  Please do not think I am trying to give the devil props here.  No, no never, never!  But we must realize that enemy our souls is very cunning, subtle, and crafty.  He is a master at weaving truth together with error.  And error has become so commonplace that many miss it all together when it comes their way.

If you just take a little time to pay attention you will see satanic contaminants in much of what our society produces for entertainment's sake.  The devil's influence is in movies, television, music, video games, and books. The devil did not trick a third of the angels in heaven over night (Rev. 12).  It was gradually through his slick, subtle influence that he sowed seeds of doubt in the hearts of his fellow angels.  And if we are not careful about what we ingest through our ears and eyes we too will be led to believe that lies are become truth.

Let's us be wise and remember the faithful words of Paul from Philippians 4:8 friends.  "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things." What are you and your family meditating upon daily?  Is it praiseworthy?  Is it virtuous?  If not why not?  Let today be the day that you choose to set only good and godly things before your eyes and ears.  By God's grace may we as His followers not contaminate a mind dedicated to the service of the living God.

Dear Father in Heaven,
I thank You that You call us to be faithful and true.  Please teach us just how important it is to be faithful to You even in our entertainment choices.  Forgive us where we have failed and cleanse our mind of any filth or contamination.  We know You can make us whole again, Lord!  We praise You and pray these things in the holy name of Jesus, Amen!

Friday, May 18, 2012

#111 Tabula Rasa

Lots of people have attempted to understand human behavior.  Countless hours have been spent studying, observing, cataloging, researching, and writing about human behavior and how to understand one another.

People often come down on opposite sides of behavior-related issues.  One behavior-related issue is in regards to sexuality and whether we are born a particular way or are nurtured to become a certain way.  Of course many proponents of gay or lesbian lifestyles would argue that people are born with those tendencies or orientations and therefore it is no easier to overcome than whether or not you have a big nose.  Personally, I do not agree with that stance.  I feel that we are all born with a relatively blank slate or in Latin terms tabula rasa.  I feel that environment has everything to do with how we turn out.

Yes, we are all born with an inherent tendency to sin and be selfish, but it is through our upbringing that we are programmed to be who we are today.  The Bible supports this position when we read that to spare the rod will spoil the child (Prov. 13:24).  Having three children of my own has taught me that when I get lax in an area it shows up in my children, but when I am consistent in an area that positive result comes to light as well.

Regarding this blank slate theory, we all come to God with a slate already full; full of all the guilt and shame of living a sinful life separated from God.  By the time we come to God many things have transpired, many sins have been committed, and we have need of a clean or blank slate.  We need forgiveness, we need the blood of Christ to wash away our sins, and we need a fresh start.

The Lord has promised us in the Bible that when we receive forgiveness for our sins that they are no longer remembered  by the Lord (Heb 8:12).  It's not that God wipes His own memory clear it's that He chooses not to remember sins in that they are no longer held against us because Jesus' sacrifice covers us.

I can't speak for all of you, but I certainly need my slate to be cleaned every day.  I need Jesus to take away my sins and give me a fresh start each morning because His mercies never fail (Lam 3:23).  How about you today friend?  Is your slate blank or is it filled with the record of your sins that you have yet to give over to the loving Savior who died to set you free?  Why not let now be the time you decide to follow Christ completely?  Why not let Him erase the sins of your life and give you a blank slate fresh with forgiveness?

Dear Father God,
Today, we praise You for being willing to forget our sins as we accept Jesus.  Thank You that we have a refuge where all the sinful events of our past and future can be taken away as we come to Christ.  Please teach us to daily come to You for a fresh commitment.  Please teach us to surrender our entire life to Christ so that no cherished sin comes between us and You.  We praise and thank You in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

#110 Hidden Dangers

There are dangers all around us in this world. Some dangers are quite apparent while others are more subtle or hidden all together. We take all sorts of measures to keep ourselves safe and out of harm's way. We wear seat belts and buy cars with airbags to protect us in case of an accident. Construction workers place all sorts of reflective markers around their job sites to highlight potential dangers. Electronics come with warning labels that tell us what not to do. Safety-conscience motorcyclists wear helmets and protective gear for maximum comfort and safety while riding. We place plastic covers over electrical outlets to protect our children. And the list could go on and on, right?

Yes, this world is a dangerous place in which to live and we as inventive, creative human beings have worked hard to make it safe to live in. It's amazing to me that much of what we strive to protect ourselves from are things we as a human race have created. Not too long ago I came home for a short break and decided to check the mail when I arrived. Our mailbox is mounted on the side of the house near the front door. But oddly it is mounted a bit higher than it should be; meaning that to see everything in the mailbox I have to tip up on my toes. No, I am not really tall but 5'7" is a fairly average height, right? So as usual I stepped outside, raised the lid, and proceeded to get the mail, but instead of tilting up on my toes like normal I just stuck my hand in to retrieve our mail.

As my hand went in I begin to feel the mail and then I felt a stinging pain between my fingers. Of course I popped up on my toes peering into the mailbox to check things out. There in the mailbox was a piece of junk mail printed on rigid, thin card stock and I had jammed my hand right down on top of it causing a deep paper cut between my fingers. Ouch! Paper cuts, while not normally deadly, hurt like crazy; especially when they are between your fingers. Ouch again!

Well, as evidenced by my writing this message, I survived the surprise attack by the junk mail bandit. But it made me think about the hidden spiritual dangers that are all around us. If we are not tuned into what the the Bible teaches us we can be sucked into the Devil's traps; we can be misled to away from God's truth. Yes, spiritual dangers are all around us but it takes an eye that is connected to Christ in order to perceive the dangers. Our only true safeguard from these dangers is to not live in a cave segregated from the rest of the world, but rather to live with a daily connection to the Savior. He alone is our Shield and Defender. He alone our Refuge.

Dear Father God,

We thank You for the mighty provisions that You provide for us. No doubt, without You, Lord, we would be lost and destitute. Please teach us to see the hidden dangers of this world. Please teach us to walk daily by Your side. We give You thanks and ask this prayer in Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

#109 Changing Gears

I think most everyone looks forward to learning how to drive as they grow up. My own children ask me from time to time about when they will get to learn how to drive and I look forward to being able to teach them. Even now we discuss various aspects of how to drive and be alert and when we see dangerous or unsafe drivers it provides opportunities to tell them what not to do.

Thinking back to when I learned to drive brings up some rather fond memories. My grandfather ran a salvage yard and I first learned to drive standing in the floorboard of his old Chevy wrecker and learning to shift the large gear stick as he worked the clutch and gas. He would even allow me to hold the huge steering wheel from time to time and get a feel for holding that old truck in the road.

I was always fascinated by how the truck would move forward and gain speed with the changing of the gears. My pawpaw was a master of getting that old wrecker moving without stalling the engine and he could do so even when hauling an old car. The trick with a manual shift transmission is to work three things or more at once. You of course have to give the vehicle some fuel by pressing down the throttle while you let out on the clutch and steer in the desired direction.

If you let out on the clutch too fast then the vehicle stalls. If you give too much fuel before the clutch can engage then the engine revs too much and may even cause you take off spinning wheels. There is a delicate dance of the feet that allows just the right amount of fuel given coupled with just the right speed of clutch release that allows the vehicle to move forward without lurching, jumping or stalling. When done properly the vehicle will simply smoothly begin to move forward. As enough speed is gained all you have to do is let off the gas, press in the clutch pedal, shift the gear stick, and then let out the clutch pedal while simultaneously resuming the correct pressure on the gas pedal. It is a great feeling to be able to master this method of driving and it has always helped me to feel more in control of a vehicle that has a manual transmission.

Believe it or not, life is quite similar to driving a manual shift. For most of us, life does not come at us slow and steady, but rather life comes charging at us head-on moving quicker than we might desire. To be able to roll with whatever life throws our way requires being able to adapt and change gears often; so to speak.

But unlike driving a manual shift vehicle where we have to maintain control and do all the work, we can rely on the Lord to help us through each transitional periods no matter how hectic they may be. For the Christian, life is not merely a test of endurance or some grand obstacle course that requires our own moral and physical fortitude. For God's followers life is more a race of dependence. Meaning that we trust in the Lord to help us to navigate the roads of life; we lean on His understanding and not our own. No, we can't just sit on the proverbial couch and do nothing, but a Christian that is truly successful in adapting to change and rolling with whatever life throws their way is one who has learned to lean on and trust in Christ to meet every need. Only when we trust in Him can all the moving pieces mesh at just the right time.

So how is life trucking along for you? Are you daily trusting in the strength of the Lord and moving along, or are you trying foolishly to do it all on your own and constantly stalling out? We are all very capable people in our own right and it seems that the more capable we are the harder it is for us to trust the Lord to take care of us. It is my prayer that we will lean on Christ for all our needs, and truly let Him be the One who handles all the gear changes that come our way. I have faith that He will get us to our destination safely. After all He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebi 13:5).

Dear Father God,
We need You today. We need You to take the wheel of life and to help us through each transition. Thank You for the promise that You will take care of us and that You will walk us through each of life's gear changes. We praise You and simply ask that You will teach us to trust You more and more each day. We praise You and pray these things in Jesus' holy name, Amen!

Friday, March 23, 2012

#108 Command Presence

There are people in this world that seem to command our attention. When they walk into a room or speak to us they have a way of connecting with people that makes those around them feel drawn in and desirous to communicate with them. In the military this is called command presence. The Army actually attempts to instill this into their commanders and leaders, but for the most part it is not something that can be learned. You either have it or you don't.

When Jesus was here on the earth He mingled with people as one who desired their good, but He also was able to speak with tremendous command presence. When Jesus spoke He was not like others who were able to stir up the crowd through sophistry and clever rhetoric. When Jesus spoke His words carried with them a weight that the people could sense down to their very core.

As people listened to Jesus they were captivated by His ability to use the simplest of illustrations to show the deepest of points. When Jesus spoke of the Scriptures people saw things that they had never seen before from any earthly teacher. Multitudes dropped what they were doing with their lives just to follow Jesus around and hear what He had to say about life and of course the Bible. It must have been a wonderful experience to listen to Jesus share from the word of God.

Jesus was able to command this type of audience even at the tender age of 12. The Bible tells of Jesus' first trip to Jerusalem with His earthly parents. Once He was in the temple among the most learned of His day He became the teacher and they the student. He asked questions that reached deeper into the heart of men than all the others gathered in the classrooms. The great rabbis were amazed at the depth of Jesus' questions and even more amazed at His ability to push beyond their questions. And Jesus' ability to speak with authority was because of His connection to the Father and because He was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Today, we live in a world that craves information and a deeper connection. People spend hours watching, reading, or listening to news, commentary, social stirrings, and engaging with social media. People long to be connected to something bigger than themselves. Many seek for belonging and far too many are looking in the wrong direction. People are looking for an authoritative voice to heed.

It is my sincere conviction that the only way we will ever feel truly connected and have true meaning in our lives is if we will be willing to listen to voice of Jesus even today. And right now He is in the heavenly sanctuary ministering on our behalf and He is willing to fill us with His Spirit that we too can speak and teach with godly authority. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak with His authority then we have something truly meaningful to share with the world around us.

When we stand on our authority then we stand on the shifting sands of this world, but when we stand on Jesus' authority then we stand on the firm foundation of our God and Savior. And when we speak on His behalf He will empower us to command attention just like He did. I have truly come to the place in my life that I realize that unless what I share with people is God-directed then I am just filling up space and making noise. It is my prayer that we will hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit and that we can have that connection with Christ that will give us His authority to share His message with the world around us.

Dear Father God,
We are so thankful that You have all power and authority, and we are thankful that You are willing to fill us with the Spirit so that we too can speak with authority as we share with the world around us. Please place within us a desire to share what You have done so that others will be drawn to Jesus. May we be able to speak with heavenly authority so the world can know our Your deep love. We pray these things in Jesus' holy name, Amen!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

#107 Regarding Time...

Keeping up with the time is as basic to human life as about anything else we do really. Each day we have places to be and people to see; all of which is coordinated and directed by the mighty clock. The busier our life the more we are managed by the clock. Then twice a year we get a wrench thrown into the works of our lives as we either spring forward and lose an hour out of our day or fall back and add an hour to the day. I really have never paid much attention the switching of the times but for some people it really throws them for a loop.

My issue with time has always been trying to do too much in the given amount of time allotted for a particular task. I am not sure if I am adrenaline junkie and just love the rush of having multiple tasks to complete under pressure or if it has just been poor planning in managing my time; maybe a mix of the two?

Regarding time, each of us should really pay attention to the times in which we live. If you are a student of Bible prophecy then it is really pays to pay attention because it becomes very apparent very quickly that we are fast approaching the second coming of Christ.

While Jesus was on the earth He made it a point to tell us what to look for so that we would know the second coming was near. Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are two places that tell of Jesus' warnings and giving of signs. He said that one of the signs that His coming is near will be that our society will be similar to how it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37). So it begs the question, "How was it in the days of Noah?" Well, according to Genesis 6:5 men were wicked and the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.

It does not take a theologian to look around and see that much of the world is filled with evil thinking people who desperately need a savior; who need Jesus. Yes, friends since we live in a time in earth's history that is drawing us closer and closer to the coming of our Lord it is time that we take the gospel commission that much more seriously.

It is time to awaken from our own spiritual slumber and make sure the blood of Jesus is over the doorpost of our hearts. It is time to be bold in our witness for Christ. It is time that we step out of our comfort zones and take a risk for the sake of the gospel message. People are looking for peace in this troubled world and those of us who have Jesus know that peace is only a prayer away.

I pray that each of us will commit to sharing our faith more and more each day as the Lord gives us opportunity. I pray that we will have the faith to reach out to our families and friends who do not know the truth as it is in Jesus and share with them in a kind, compassionate way just how important it is to have a connection with Christ. What time is it? It's time to be about our Father's business.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for giving us Your holy word in the Bible. Thank You for the plan of salvation that redeems us from sin and its penalty. Please teach us to be mindful of the times in which we live and please place within us the desire to want to reach souls for Your kingdom. Give us the courage to partner with You in reaching the world around us. We praise You and ask these blessings in the holy name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

#106 Haptic Response

Our lives are filled with many modern, fancy devices. Things that were only dreamed of in science fiction novels a few years back are now everyday realities for us. Not too many years ago no one had a mobile telephone, but all of our kids will grow up thinking that we have all always carried our digital leashes in our pockets, purses, or what ever.

The other day I heard someone talking about using a payphone and a kid that was standing there asked with a confused look on their face, "A payphone, what it that?" For the first time in my life I felt a little old. Maybe it's my desire to never feel old that makes me love mobile electronics or maybe it's my appreciation for the time and effort that they save me in conducting the Lord's work; let's go with the latter on that one shall we?

Speaking of mobile electronics, I must say that I am amazed at how the designers of these devices are able to create them so that they blend seamlessly into our lives. One day you are littering your life and the planet with notes all over the place and the next you can be creating a digital archive for all the information your either gather or create. It really is pretty neat.

I even had one phone that when you touched the screen it would vibrate ever so slightly right when you touched it to let you know that the device received your input. This is a feature called "haptic response". Haptic comes from the Greek word happo which means "I fasten onto or I touch". Some feel this type of feature on a device is little more than an annoyance while others appreciate knowing that the device has received the input that they intended for it to receive.

Whether your phone gives you haptic feedback or whether it only flips open and makes calls really has no eternal value, but as I thought about all of this it made me wonder about just how important haptic feedback is for our lives. In other words, is it important for us to have touch feedback from the world around us. According to an article from the New York Times back in 1988 a lack of touch in infants actually retards growth. The research showed that premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47% faster and were discharged from the hospital six days earlier. Wow! Touch is really important.

But how important is touch after infancy? I must admit that I have not conducted clinical research but I do have three children. And I make it a point to hug and kiss on them everyday that I can. My own children have grown to appreciate this and look forward to it so much that if I forget to give them a hug or kiss they say, "Daddy, where's my hug?" or "Daddy, are you not going to kiss me goodbye?" There is something about touching our children in a godly way that helps them to feel loved, protected, and nurtured.

I believe part of this stems from the fact that we were created to be in the presence of our God. Of course sin came in through Adam and Eve and we lost the privilege of being in the direct presence of God. How awesome it must have been to commune directly with God, to have Him come up and put His loving arms around you. Talk about some haptic feedback. The awesome thing is that one day soon we will be able to go into the presence of God once again. One day soon our Lord, Jesus, will come back to take us to be in heaven with Him. One day soon we will be able to run up and throw our arms around His neck as we then feel His love wash over us.

Yeah, smart phones and all that digital stuff is neat, but they are no substitute for human touch and they are certainly no comparison with how awesome it will be to fall into the arms of Jesus. But unlike smartphones that we have to buy, being connected to Jesus and being able to eventually be held by Him is a free gift that is available to any and all who will receive Him. Isn't it time that we start looking forward to the divine touch of God? Friends, don't let the flashy trappings of this world become your god; don't let the temporal touches here cause you to miss out on the divine touch of our Lord. There is no app for that!

Dear Lord,
Thank You for designing our bodies to appreciate the sense of touch. Thank You that we have the promise of being reconnected with You in the physical sense. We long for so much more than this world has to offer. Please teach us to be faithful to what You desire for our lives, and please teach us to call others to experience Your saving love. We praise You and ask for Your blessing in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, March 2, 2012

#105 Goliath in the Mirror

No doubt many of us are familiar with the story of David and Goliath; a Biblical tale of God working through the seemingly weakest among men. This story tells of David who goes to the battle front to check on his brothers on behalf of his father, Jesse.

Upon arriving on the scene of the battle David finds the mighty men of Israel cowering in fear because of an unconverted, Philistine giant named Goliath. Goliath stood shouting obscenities and insults against God and His people. His towering presence and renown in battle caused all the men of Israel's army to forget that God was on their side and would bring them victoriously through any and all battles He called them to fight.

Of course it did not help that their leader, King Saul, was hiding like a coward in his own tent. This display of weakness and faithlessness made David sick and disgusted. Although David was but only a shepherd boy, he had faith that could move mountains and apparently slay giants. After consulting with the king David was granted permission to go out and face the giant on behalf of God and Israel.

With a sling, five stones, and the Holy Spirit David ran out to meet the giant. Goliath was offended that such a one of weak appearance was sent out to face him. In his frustration and arrogance he tilted his helmet back to howl at David. That was just the opening David needed to make his shot. One stone was all that it took to take down the giant from Gath. Of course we know that the Lord was with David and perhaps the angels sped that stone faster than normal to give just the right amount of speed to drop Goliath. The irony of the whole thing is that David then approached him to finish him off with his own sword.

Too often we modern-day Christians act the part of Israel's army that day in the valley of Elah. Instead of facing off squarely against the Giants in our lives we too cower in fear forgetting that God has promised to help us overcome all trials and temptations. And many times the so-called giants are nothing more than a manifestation of our own lack of faith. In these cases we become our own giant because our own fears scare us from doing God's will.

It is my prayer that this brief review of how God used David to slay Goliath will give us the faith to trust the Lord in every circumstance we face. The Bible teaches us that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Which means that what He does for one He is willing to do for another. In other words God wants to bless each of His children. God wants to give each of His children victory over sin in their lives. And ultimately God wants to save all of us. Let's make it a point to not forget how much He loves us and how much He longs to work in our lives.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for the story of David and Goliath. Thank You for the promise that You will fight our battles with us too. Please forgive us for the times that we have failed to trust and follow You, Lord. Please teach us to face each trial, temptation, and conflict with You by our side. Please keep us from being our own Goliath. We love and praise You in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen!

Friday, February 17, 2012

#104 Outside Looking In

As a young boy I wanted desperately to play peewee baseball for my school. We were the hornets and we wore black, yellow, and white uniforms. Somehow I convinced my parents to take me for tryouts and by stroke of another miracle I made it on the team and was assigned to right field. But even though I made it on the team it was quickly apparent to everyone that baseball was not my sport. Most of the time I did not even go out on the field but stayed in the dugout watching the team lose. I wanted more than anything to be good at baseball. I wanted to be out there playing with my team and I actually wanted to be able to help them win. Looking at the other boys play from behind the chain links was not my idea of a good time in the least.

I know I am not the only one who has ever wished they could be good at a particular sport. Countless millions just like me have wished they were able to be good at sports, but like me they are relegated to the ranks of the spectators. But there came a time when I discovered a venture that does not require me to be athletically inclined. I learned that God calls us all to be soul winners and that He does not put anyone on the bench, so to speak.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord then we are also accepting the call to carry the good news of the Gospel to all people. Just before Jesus left this earth He told His disciples to go to all people in every country; baptizing them and teaching them how to be disciples. And any one of us that will accept His call can and will be used by the Lord to bring others to Him. No one has to sit behind the fence of life watching others engage in soul winning while they hold down the proverbial pews. Jesus wants all of us to be involved in seeking others for Him to save.

But not all of us accept His call. Far too many of us desire to be bench/pew warmers instead of actually getting in the game. I wonder how many people could have been saved if each of us took this call seriously? I wonder how many more would be numbered with the saints of God if all of His people actually desired to share Jesus with the world around them? Friends, this world will not last forever; the Bible makes that clear as a bell. So if time is short--and it is--what will we do to make use of the time that we have?

It is my deep and earnest prayer that each of us who profess the name of Christ will never be content to stand on the outside looking on as others work for the salvation of souls. May each of us partner with the Lord and seek daily for someone to win for Jesus. God does not need your ability friends; He wants your availability. And if you and I give ourselves to the Lord He will put us on the field, He will coach us, He will train us, and ultimately He will empower us. Let today be the day that you choose to partner with the Lord for the salvation of a world in need of the Savior.

Dear Father,
I am so glad that You want to use us to do the work of soul winning on this earth. Angels could do it and would love to do so, but You have called us. You have called fallen, redeemed human beings to be the vehicle by which Your message of salvation reaches other fallen humans. Please give us a love for souls, Lord. Please give us a desire to be more than spectators. Please empower us to do Your will. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

#103 Storing Up

I recently read a news story that was concerned about the animals that are hibernating. Their concern stemmed from the fact that this winter has been fairly mild across the country, and because of the mild winter there is a fear that hibernating animals will come out of their sleep too soon. I suppose time will tell.

Hibernation occurs in many animals. Bears, prairie dogs, bats, badgers, and some rodents are among those that hibernate. During hibernation the body temperature drops along with the animals metabolism. Breathing also slows during this deep sleep. In order to survive the winter in this state animals must work hard to pack on the pounds in the fall before the onset of winter. It is the stored fat that allows the animal to survive without eating during this time period.

As we look around this world we can quickly see that we are in the autumn of this earth's history and a spiritual winter is coming when God's people will see persecution again. In Matthew 24 Jesus told us that just before His second coming that our world would become like it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37). And according to Genesis 6:5 we read how the wickedness of mankind was very great and the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually during Noah's days.

Each newscast, blog, cable news network, and scores of anecdotal stories declare that we are fast approaching a state of affairs in this world such as it was in the days of Noah. No, I am not trying play the alarmist here, but allegiance to the Word of God demands that we take notice of the age in which we live so that those of us who know Christ can help those who don't get to know Him. And now is the time to store up on the Word of God. Now is the time to share the love of Jesus with a dying world. Now is the time to declare the nearness of the coming of Christ.

The Bible speaks of a time when God's people will be persecuted because of their faithfulness (Revelation 13:16). Some have said that history forgotten is history that is destined to be repeated. Let us not forget that there were times when it was illegal to own a personal copy of the Bible. If armed men came to your home and forcibly took away your Bible would you even miss it? Have you committed the Word to your memory so that if your Bible where taken away it would not matter because it's hidden in your heart? Sadly, I think that for too many of us if our Bible were gone we would have no spiritual fat to draw from during the famine for God's holy Word.

Friends, we live in very serious times. I challenge you to consider your priorities. And if spending time in the Word of God is not one of your priorities then I hope you will make a change. Partner with God to help you store up on His Word now so that you can have the assurance and peace that is found in the Word when Bibles are not stacked around you.

Dear Father God,
You have told us that today is the day of salvation. We know this truth because You have shared it through Your Word. Teach us to treasure the Word, Lord. Please teach us to store up now while time is our friend. Place within us a desire to save souls for Your kingdom, and fill us with Your Spirit. We praise You and ask these things in Jesus' mighty name, Amen.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

#102 High Octane Fuel

When you join the military they control your life. This truth became quickly apparent when I went to basic combat training (BCT). One of the goals of BCT is to get you in good physical condition.

I can recall the drill sergeants telling us that it was their job to make sure that we were in good shape before BCT was over. One of the drill sergeants stood before us and told us that he thought of our bodies as sports cars. He said that no one in their right mind would put bad fuel into an expensive sports car. And he saw part of his job as helping us to see that our bodies were like those sports cars he spoke of. With that in mind he said we should be careful what we put into our bodies when we went through line at the chow hall or dining facility. They were not allowed by Army regulations to tell us what we could eat, but they had the right to exercise any harmful foods out of us if they felt it was necessary.

No doubt the drill sergeants were right to tell us that putting garbage into our bodies was not a decision that set us up for success in our physical training program, but the Bible gives us a better reason that goes beyond mere physical fitness.

The Bible teaches us that we were created in the image of our loving God (Genesis 1:27) and I believe the Bible when it outlines what happened during that creation week. We are told that God spoke things into existence all that week, but when it came time to create man, the Lord formed us out of the dust of the earth, blew into our nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). I submit to you that since God created us it's only reasonable to assume that He knows best what should go into our bodies by way of food. That's why the Lord gave guidelines from the very beginning as to what we should or should not be eating.

The very first diet given to mankind was a plant-based vegan diet. This is spelled out in Genesis 1:29 where God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food." Meat did not become a part of the diet until after the flood (Genesis 9:3). But even when meat entered the diet there were some things that were allowed and others that were not.

Some think that the distinction between clean and unclean meats came along as a special law for the Jews, but the truth is that the distinction was always there long before there were any Jews. We see this when Noah was instructed by the Lord Himself regarding the number of animals to bring into the ark. Noah was to bring seven of every clean beast and only two of the unclean (Genesis 7:2). But some would ask, "If people were not eating meat prior to the flood, why did clean and unclean matter?" That's a great question and the answer is really simple. They were only allowed to use the clean beasts for the sacrifices for sin. Had they brought only two of a particular clean animal and then sacrificed one to the Lord the species would have died out.

But the Old Testament is not the only portion of the Bible that concerns itself with our diet. Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 10: 31 that everything we eat or drink should be done to God's glory, not for our own selfish indulgence. Some think though that the distinction of meats being clean and unclean was done away with in the New Testament. Many look to Peter's dream in Acts 10 where Peter is commanded to arise and eat various unclean animals as evidence that we can now simply eat anything we want as God's people. The truth is that the dream was not about food at all really. The food was simply a metaphor for people. In Peter's mind--as with all other Jews--if you were not Jewish then you were unclean. But Peter realized through his dream he was to call no man unclean (Acts 10:28). The dream was simply to prepare Peter to share the gospel with the Gentiles.

In short friends, we still exist in the image of God. Yes, that image has been marred by thousands of years of sinful living by all humanity, but we still bear God's image to some degree none the less. And the fact has not changed that God wants us to be healthy and happy (3 John 1:2). He still knows what's best for our bodies. We still should eat and drink only to glorify God. I have people tell me that Jesus nailed the distinction between clean and unclean meats to the cross. But as I read the Bible I discover that Jesus died to cleanse sinners, not hogs or any other meats that the Lord calls an abomination.(1 John 1:9).

Some may see this posting as a call for wide-spread vegetarianism, but that is not the case. My goal is to cause you to stop and think about what you put into your body because as a Christian it is not really your body at all. Paul gave us other counsel in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 that reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that is because we were bought with a price. We were first bought through creation, and were repurchased through the blood of Jesus. That is why Paul said "therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's"

So my question to us all today is, "Are we glorifying God with our bodies, or are we living however we want eating and drinking whatever we want?" May we all purpose to glorify God in the bodies He has so graciously given us.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Thank You for caring so much about us that You did not leave our diet up to chance. Thank You for guiding us even in our diet. We realize that You only want us to be happy and healthy so please teach us to embrace Your teaching as it relates to our diet. We give You thanks and praise in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

#101 Aggregate Faith

I have had a lot of jobs in my life. Before realizing my call to ministry I basically went from job to job never having a sense of peace that I was doing what I was meant to be doing.

One of those many jobs was working for a concrete and cement block supplier in North Carolina. It was one of the largest suppliers in the area and we stayed very busy nearly year round. I did several jobs while working there. I drove a truck and delivered blocks, worked in the warehouse, and managed the yard overseeing the sales of sand, stone, re-bar, and other items for sale to the general public.

In the middle of the yard was the mixing tower. That tower was where all the concrete was mixed and loaded in the mixer trucks for delivery. The tower was quite tall with a system of conveyors and storage bins stacked into the air. It all had to be high enough for the trucks to drive under to be loaded. Inside the tower where all the concrete ingredients were mixed together was a fascinating site to behold. Part of my job as the yard manager was to go inside the tower from time to time and help unclog storage bins or repair various metal parts, pneumatic cylinders, or even minor electrical items.

When everything was working properly the operator in the dispatch office could select how much cement, sand, water, gravel, and fly ash to send to the mixture depending on the customers needs. Once the selection was made by the operator all the ingredients would begin falling into the mixer truck below to create the desired product. More goes into getting a few yards of concrete to a job site than one might think.

When I think back on those days it makes me think of our Christian faith. The more I study the Scriptures the more I realize that our faith is sort of like concrete mix. No, we do no need sand, cement, or gravel to saved, but our faith is like concrete in that we need multiple components to come together to form an aggregate whole.

Think about it for a minute. Christianity is not just saying, "I believe God exists so therefore I am saved." Christianity has multiple beliefs that come together to form a composite. Yes, we have to believe that God exists but we also need prayer to connect with our God. We need to read our Bibles to know His will for our lives. We need to embrace the fact that we are sinners who need a Savior, Jesus, to give us victory over sin and death. We need to receive the Holy Spirit that our sinful character may be overcome and that we might become like Jesus. We need to baptized so we die to our old, sinful lives. We need to share our faith so that others will hear about the Lord and so that our faith stays fresh and alive.

Any so-called Christian who neglects any of these components of our faith is not a whole or complete Christian and their faith will suffer for it. Perhaps even suffer to the point of becoming luke-warm or even losing their faith in God altogether. The beauty of Christianity is that we do not have to do these things on our own. If we will partner with God He will make Himself known in our lives in such a marked way that we will be transformed by His love and grace. When we partner with God He places a desire in our hearts to want to read His word, to want to pray, to want to share our faith. We need to surrender to His will and be willing to move as He leads.

So how is the mixture of your faith today? Do you have all the components that come together to form your aggregate faith or are you lacking a key piece of the Christian walk? If you have it all together then keep moving forward with the Lord and never look back. If you are missing something critical to the survival of your faith, then call out to the Lord and ask for help in becoming complete and then do not fight Him when the Spirit convicts you to make changes. Apart from Jesus we cannot be complete, but with Jesus we can have everything we will ever need.

Dear Father God,
Thank You so much for caring enough about us to take complete care of us. Thank You that when we embrace You that we never lack anything for our spiritual nurturing or advancement. Please forgive us for where we have ignored or failed to see Your hand working in our lives, and please teach us to be complete. Thank You for hearing our prayers for we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

#100 High Value Target

Some things in life are worth more than other things. When we consider people we know, again, some are ranked as more important than others. Not because one human life is worth more than another's but because we may be more deeply connected to one person more so than another.

In combat, certain leaders in a given group of Soldiers are considered High Value Targets (HVTs). This status is given for several reasons. The person may be a commander and their capture could compromise sensitive intelligence data. Chaplains are considered HVTs as well because of the blow to morale and spiritual security that capturing or killing them would cause to people of faith.

In the eyes of heaven, in the eyes of our loving, Creator God each one of us are also considered HVTs. Not because we are players in an earthly battle against flesh and blood but rather because of our spiritual battle against principalities and the powers of darkness in high places. In other words, the enemy of our souls, Satan, would like nothing more than to destroy us and everyone around us. But because we have been purchased by the blood of Jesus we have a value that is worth more than anything this world can afford to pay. The high value of our purchase from sin coupled with the fact that Satan has a target on us as the object of his snares and deceptions equates to each one of us who accept Christ being HVTs.

But many of us walk around seemingly unaware of our intrinsic value. We get down on ourselves and the world around us and buy into the lies of this world that would have us to believe that our value is tied to our wealth, academic accomplishments, our network of friends, or any number of other fleeting, temporal qualifiers. The Bible does not teach pop psychology that shifts with the popular tides of opinion and secular influence. It is pop psychology that says we should build a child's self esteem, make them feel good about themselves, and prop them up on the fragile niceties of false appearances.

The Bible teaches that we all have value because Christ died to purchase us from sin and the grave. He did not buy us with silver or gold, but with the blood of Divinity. That purchase gave us not self esteem, but intrinsic self worth. Again, making us very valuable targets of the enemy. I just want to live each day alive in the knowledge that I am special in the eyes of God. I want to live knowing that if He had it to do all over again Jesus would die the death of the cross just to save me. I want to live knowing that I am an HVT. And since there is a target on my back because of the banner over my heart may I live to honor the God who ever lives to protect His own.

Isn't it time that God's children started acting like they know to whom they belong? Isn't it time that we start actively seeking to bring others under the blood stained banner of Christ? Yes, I know it makes them a target too when they accept Jesus, but better to be a target of the enemy than the condemned of God. Because being a target means also that we are heirs to the glory of heaven. Choose today whom you will serve. By God's grace I choose to be a target.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Thank You for choosing us to worship You. Thank You for protecting Your own from the deceptions of the evil one. Thank You for making us valuable. Teach us to live as those who have value. Teach us to live as those who are engaged in spiritual warfare. And ultimately, please teach us to trust You to see us through till the end. We need You, we love You, we adore You. Come soon and take us to be with You. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

#99 Symbiosis: Part 2

We have talked about symbiotic relationships before within the context of earthly human relationships and especially within the marital relationship. We discussed how those relationships work best when they are built around a model where all parties seek to benefit others instead of themselves. Only the Lord can help us break away from selfishness and greed to the point where we are givers and not just takers within our relationships.

Today I want to challenge you to consider that we can also have a symbiotic relationship with our Lord God. There is no question that when we live a life connected to our wonderful Creator God that we reap benefits. No, the benefit package, so to speak, should not be the motivation for becoming a Christian, but there are benefits none the less. Not the least among these so-called benefits is the peace that comes from being connected to God. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit that become manifest in our lives when we are filled with the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23.

Those fruits are love, joy, peace, longsuffering or patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Friends, these are very godly benefits of living a Spirit-filled life, but they also benefit everyone around us thereby making them symbiotic when applied through our relationships.

But not only does being filled with the Spirit of God bless us and those around us it blesses God too. "How" you may ask? We see several instances in the Bible where the people are God are called upon to bless the LORD their God. Nehemiah 9:5, Psalm 66:8, Psalm 68:26, Psalm 104:1, Psalm 145:1, and James 3:9 all speak of us blessing God. Yes, these are references that tell us to bless God but we are still missing the how, right? So how do we bless God?

First we have to ask, "What is the first thing that God wants from those He created?" The simple answer is worship. God desires our worship, our love, our devotion, reverence, and partnership in spreading the good news of Christ. Paul encouraged us to glorify God in all that we do (1 Cor. 10:31). When we respond to this call to glorify God, when we surrender our lives and worship the Lord as He has asked us to do then we bring a blessing to the heart of God. And when we bless the heart of God we become participants in a symbiotic relationship with our God. No, God does need us to be complete, but He sure loves it when His children come home.

It is my hope that we will live in such a way that we seek to bless God. Not only will it fill us with love and purpose but it will certainly put a smile on the face of our Lord. May we all purpose to be a blessing to the world around us and especially to our blessed Lord.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for seeking us. Thank You for teaching us how to be connected to You and for filling us with the Spirit so we can bless You and the world around us. Please give us the courage to live for You daily as You prepare us for eternity. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

#98 Symbiosis: Part 1

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Relationships are the building blocks of our society. We have relationships with our family, friends, co-workers, governmental entities, and many others. Within all of our relationships we either function well or dysfunctionally to some degree or another. Sadly, it seems that much of our society lives in the realm of dysfunction more so these days.

Regarding families, traditional relationships within families where both parents are present to nurture and guide their children are being attacked by the enemy of our souls: Satan. He wants nothing more than to destroy the bonds between a husband and wife so the entire family unit suffers. His handiwork is proudly displayed in the divorce statistics of our society and world.

Television and movies glorify premarital and extramarital sex to the point that those who seek for or practice monogamous sexual relationships within a committed marital relationship as defined between one man and one woman are the odd ones that are out of touch with what's hip and en vogue. "Till death do us part" has in many circles become simply a token phrase that is translated to mean "Till I find something better or till I get tired of you".

The sad part is that this twisted, non-Biblical world view has been adopted by many Christians. So much so that divorce is just as common within the church as it is without. How have we let this happen? When did we as a society lose site of the special bond that God intended for us to experience in the sacred institution of marriage? How do we fight against this trend without alienating ourselves from the very ones that Christ wants us to reach for Him?

The answer is not simple or easy and I recognize that divorce is not always our choice. Many times it is forced upon us as an unwilling participant or for Biblical grounds of infidelity (Matt 19:9). But just because the answer is not simple or easy does not mean that we should not seek to know it and live it.

At least part of the answer is that each one of us has to recognize that God did not grant us a free license to use our bodies as a fun house. Sex is a beautiful gift from God but one that is only to be experienced within the confines of a committed marital relationship. And when we give our lives to Christ our body ceases to belong to us (1 Cor 6:19, 20). Christ purchased us from death and sin when He died to save us. So if we belong to Him then He has the right to direct us in how we use our bodies; sexually or otherwise.

Another part of the answer comes in the idea that God intended marriage to last until we go to heaven. In other words we should approach marriage with the idea that divorce is not an option. When we go into marriage with this thought it forces us to work through the trials and challenges to find mutually beneficial solutions that both sides can live with. Unless pride, selfishness, and greed get in the way God can always lead us to solutions that will allow our marriages to become stronger rather than weaker. This can even happen after infidelity.

And yet another portion of the answer has to come in the area of forgiveness. We are all human and therefore we will all make mistakes from time to time. That's a given. But the challenge comes in how we deal with our mistakes and those of others. Are we willing to admit when we're wrong? Are we willing to grant forgiveness to others when they admit their wrong doing and ask for forgiveness? If we keep the fact in mind that God has or is willing to forgive us for any and every sin we have or will commit then there should never be a time that we are not willing to grant forgiveness to someone else. To not forgive others when we have received forgiveness is to mock the forgiveness God has granted to us, and puts us in a place where we hold a different standard for forgiveness than God has.

In closing, I believe what we need more of is a healthy symbiosis within our marriages and even our friendships. Symbiosis is basically a cooperative relationship that is mutually beneficial to the parties involved. Symbiosis implies balance where one part is not taking more than they are giving. It is my prayer that we will not allow Satan to destroy the sacred institution of marriage any more than he already has. I pray that we will deepen our relationship with the Lord more and lean on Him and His holy word to know how to be givers and forgivers in our relationships. May the Lord teach us to not be selfish, greedy, or lustful, but rather content and generous. By God's grace may we cherish our spouses and the relationships that God has blessed us with.

Dear Lord,
Thank You for creating us for relationships both with You and others. Please forgive us where we have not given our best to each relationship and please teach us to live Your principles and not the loose morals of this evil world. May the Holy Spirit guide us each day is my prayer in Jesus' name, Amen.